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Defeat proved to be too hard to take, both for Eden Gardens and Vinod Kambli
A tense, gripping quarter-final win over Pakistan had drained India emotionally. There was the small matter of a semi-final to think of but premature celebrations of a World Cup triumph had already begun. Aamer Sohail, Pakistan's stand-in captain, summed up the mood at the post-match press conference when he wished India good luck "in the final at Lahore".
Angered by an Indian collapse of seven wickets for 22, after India were on course at 98 for 1 chasing 252, some sections of the Eden Gardens crowd threw bottles on to the outfield and set fire to the seating. Match referee Clive Lloyd took the teams off for 15 minutes, attempted a restart and then awarded Sri Lanka the game by default.
Vinod Kambli, who walked in at No. 5, had watched partners walk in and leave, after being unable to come to grips with the vicious turn that the Sri Lankan spinners were extracting from the mud-cake pitch. Kambli, usually a fluent stroke-maker and one of India's leading run-scorers in the tournament, had pottered around for 49 minutes for just 10 runs and hadn't yet managed a boundary.
Walking off the field after the result was decided, Kambli couldn't contain himself. It was a miracle for India to win from there on - needing close to nine an over on a raging turner - but Kambli's spontaneous outburst captured India's frustration. Not only had he run out of support but he had to endure the ignominy of conceding the match before its logical conclusion. It was an intensely embarrassing moment for the hosts - one spectator raised a banner reading "Congratulation Sri Lanka, we are sorry" - and Kambli's tears symbolised both the anguish and the shame.
"It was a sad moment - people still remember Vinod Kambli being stranded there and tears and crying; but that is what Vinod Kambli is all about. And all of us felt the same but Vinod Kambli is more demonstrative."
- Sanjay Manjrekar, watching from the dressing room
What happened next
Just like the Pakistani fans four days before, India's enraged public raged against their unsuccessful players and a guard was put on captain Mohammad Azharuddin's house. Kambli's next 35 one-dayers for India were forgettable - he averaged 19.31 with three fifties - and he never attained the heights that made him an instant hero back in 1993. He'd already played his last Test, in November 1995, and will forever be remembered as a prodigy who slipped on the threshold of greatness.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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